Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A Suitable Boy and An Equal Music

I had a great time reading and being read 'A suitable boy'.My dad brought this 1300 page book when the maximum pages I had ever read was somewhere around 300.That was around my 7th grade.He didn't actually buy the book but took him from a friend of his who I gather must be those sort of gentlemen who buy the latest buzz-books and take pride in lending them than actually read them! This because the book is still on our book racks,obviously nobody came asking.

Dad never even suggested we (my bro and me) read the book.But he used to read out excerpts,interesting ones,so that we knew that actually this 1300 page goliath is a good read if you have the courage to do it.He read about how the reckless Maan played holi,how Meenakshi melted her father-in-law's Roorke Engg. college gold medals for her jewels,about Varun's drunken horse racing adventures and a lot more little incidents.That's when I realised that there are books that can be read at random,without making a difference to the story.Such a departure from the predominantly mystery novels I used to read!

So although I knew a lot of anecdotes by the time I enetered 10th grade,I never actually read the book.Then we had almost no book reading time due to the hectic academic routine.Neither I had time enough to read it myself.Then came the carefree vacations after the IIT results.

I had already finished an IIT favourite Catch-22 just before my mains (yes!) and now I had minimal work to do.So I decided to settle some old scores.Dusting off the dog-eared copy of the book,I set out to complete it before I entered IIT.And I finished it within 10 days.It was an enthralling read,coupled by the lack of things I had to do which made me finish this fast.And after reading I realised that I could have read the book from anywhere to anywhere without making difference.The amazing detailed description of every sub-part of the society was one thing that stood out for me.Every stereotype event,person,calamity,caste etc. is narrated so naturally.I knew what the end was going to be,which was highly practical considering the time this novel was set in,and it made little difference.There were no gimmicks,and the novel flowed;like life perhaps.The little sections that the book was divided into made reading simpler.The setting and background made the events so imaginable which was one problem I had faced with the books set in the west.Church spires,unknow festivals,unknown cuisines--was a little tough picturising.

Then I got hold of 'An Equal Music' last week.I started reading with a lot of expectations.Although I wasn't entirely disappointed with the book,but it was far less charming than the first one for me.Always feel mystified by the number of books,movies,songs and works of art that are dedicated to love and life.Sometimes both become interchangeable. 'A Suitable Boy' had it's stories,but it was disappointing to find an entire book dedicated to this most popular of emotions sometimes obsessively so.

This story about Michael and Julia and a small circle of people has so many things left to probability that sometimes it becomes disturbing that a writer like Seth is using the what-happens-next sort of strategy to keep readers glued.The language is brilliant though.The flow and the imagery used sometimes made me think that I am in the middle of a poem.The use of musical terms and pieces,that too classical music also took a bit off the book for me.Especially since I am not past that Rock n'Roll phase of life where Deep Purple and The Who matter more than Schubert or Mozart.I tried my best to get hold of Mozart,Schubert,Vivaldi and the likes.Got most them and tried to appreciate what the protagonist must have lived for.But somehow the little knowledge of quartets,C-minors,D-majors,Fugues etc. were too tough to grasp in one go.So maybe I will read this book again if and when my tastes grow sophisticated enough,to understand it all.The love story that was the other part of the book was disturbing and pretty ordinary I must say.And I hope I don't get to understand this part by experience :D.But the language it was put in is beyond praise.

I had trouble understanding the theme and motive of 'Half a Life',a book whose personally autographed copy by Naipaul I was reading.This was further compunded by the fact that I read it in a train journey.But the one thing that left an impact on me was the dialogue between Willie and his writer friend,when Willie shows him his stories.

"Story has no end,no beginning.It must flow,like life",he said.Perhaps I believe in the same philosophy now.'A Suitable Boy' perfectly fits in this definition,'An Equal Music' would too but the inexperienced constrains of myself perhaps fail to see how.

And no don't take it as a book review.This is the contrast of my feelings,experiences as I read both the novels.Something I wondered about when I hadn't read this book.

The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.
--opening page of 'A suitable Boy'


Arunabh said...

How cruelly you have deprived me of
the pleasue of reading " an equal
music" starting from scratch.Still repenting why i did go through this posting of yours .Oye now don't
discuss " is newyork burning " in same

Nikhil said...

Sorry,I should have added spoiler warnings.

But seriously after reading A Suitable Boy you should read this book.The language is amazing.Just for the sake of language and example of novel writing.

Anyway,there is lot more to the book.I was just disappointed with the story,which may appeal to someone else.

Let us agree to disagree.